Descartes and the Life of the Mind Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2236 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Psychology

Descartes and the Life of the Mind: In Support of "I think, therefore I am"

The legitimacy of the argument, "I think, therefore I am" is indeed one of the first indubitable truths as presented in Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy." The fundamental point of this argument is the notion that beingness and existence are directly connected to thought and being able to have the cognizance of the thought process being separate from the body. As this paper will demonstrate, it doesn't even matter if these thoughts are true or false or if they occur in a dream state or a real one, they are often highly complex, and they represent an autonomy of the human being from his environment, a sense of distinction and a life of the mind. These ideas are at the crux of the foundational support for "I think, therefore I am."Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Descartes and the Life of the Mind: Assignment

One of the first points to support this conclusion is simply presented in the acknowledgment that the human being goes through a range of entirely complex thought processes all of which contribute to the multi-faceted notion of existence. "Well, then, what am I? A thing that thinks. What is that? A thing that doubts, understands, af-rms, denies, wants, refuses, and also imagines and senses" (Descartes, 5). This simple assertion truly demonstrates the complexity of the human mind: doubting something involves questioning what is presented, understanding something implies a level of comprehension and familiarity, affirming implies being able to verify something -- almost in an evaluating manner. The ability to deny something implies being able to accept or reject the truth. Wanting something speaks to how human desire is largely a cognitive process. Refusal implies that individuals are capable of having a strong cognizance of what they want, so strong that it can guide the process of what they will accept or reject. The aptitude of imagination is perhaps the strongest and most powerful ability that a human being possesses: it signifies the ability to picture that which is not. Imagination means that the human being is able to comprehend things existing not as they already are. Thus is such a remarkable ability, one could even argue that the ability to imagine alone is proof enough of the validity of "I think, therefore I am." Imagination means that an individual is able to comprehend things which do not exist, which have never appeared before in his plane of existence or realm of experience. In a word, it's an entirely creative, almost godlike process and one which creates full support for the idea, "I think, therefore I am" because nothing so strongly supports the notion of beingness than the ability to create, even if it's just in the mind. "But the 'I' who imagines is also this same 'I'. For even if (as I am pretending) none of the things that I imagine really exist, I really do imagine them, and this is part of my thinking" (Descartes, 6). This is a truly complex aspect of thinking, one which demonstrates that the human being is capable of engaging in thought which demonstrates an autonomy from the way things are. The human being, through imagination, is able to create a separateness from his immediate reality, whatever that reality, and create an image or idea of things that are elsewhere -- not immediate. This is a true intricacy of the cognitive process and one which give evidence for "I think, therefore I am."

The final attribute that Descartes describes as occurring in the human mind is the ability to sense; the human being senses, as Descartes puts it. This is an ability that's just as powerful and significant as the ability to imagine. To sense implies a high level of cognition and one which helps the human being to discern using a high level of finely-tuned cognitive ability along with deeper, more nuanced senses like gut and instinct. This act of sensing may not be as easily understandable or as conscious as the ability of conscious thought, but it doesn't mean they don't exist. To sense is to feel, discern, or perceive in a highly complex manner using thought and instinct. Just like imagination, the ability of the human being to engage with the world in this manner implies a high level of elaborate beingness, something which supports direct that the idea of "I think, therefore I am is absolutely correct.

Furthermore, this idea is buttressed even further by Descartes when he points out that the individual "understands some things" (6). This distinction is important as it demonstrates that the human being doesn't have to understand everything in order to exist; full and total comprehension is not important in order to act as evidence for the existence of an individual. "Lastly, it is also this same 'I' who senses, or is aware of bodily things seemingly through the senses" (Descartes, 6). This is just another level and mode of awareness and processing of information that implies a complex individual who is rife with sheer beingness. The world is intricate enough; having a complete grip on these intricacies is not a necessity to validate the existence of a human being. Rather it's the cognizance of the human being that he understands some things and doesn't understand others which is the most interesting part, as it offers up the idea of a heightened sense of awareness of the individual -- yet even further evidence which reinforces the idea, "I think, therefore I am."

Another fascinating point that Descartes brings up, is that all of these ideas presented are still absolute, even if the reality that we are a part of is part of an extended dream: "Isn't all this just as true as the fact that I exist, even if I am in a perpetual dream, and even if my creator is doing his best to deceive me? Which of all these activities is distinct from my thinking? Which of them can be said to be separate from myself? The fact that it is I who doubt and understand and want is so obvious that I can't see how to make it any clearer… Because I may be dreaming, I can't say for sure that I now see the ?ames, hear the wood crackling, and feel the heat of the ?re; but I certainly seem to see, to hear, and to be warmed. This cannot be false; what is called 'sensing' is strictly just this seeming, and when 'sensing' is understood in this restricted sense of the word it too is simply thinking" (Descartes, 6). This is one of Descartes' most fascinating points, as essentially he's illuminating that whether or not this reality is as concrete as it seems to us is really of no consequence; this reality could simply be a highly dynamic and highly extended dream; it's actually of no consequence to us. Whether or not this reality is real or dreamt does not negate the existence of the human being at all. Existence is directly implied upon the capability of thinking outside of one's environmental reality, of creating an autonomy distinct from that which is, and being able to have a world of thought -- a veritable life of the mind, offers a strong reinforcement for the truth of the notion, "I think, therefore I am."

The idea of the "life of the mind" is a key element which acts as a strong foundational support for the validity of "I think, therefore I am." There is an absoluteness to the thought process, even if it's not tactile or tangible or even visible to others. "When ideas are considered solely in themselves and not taken to be connected to anything else, they can't be false; for whether it is •a goat that I am imagining or •a chimera, either way it is true that I do imagine it" (Descartes, 10). And in that act of imagination, there is a degree of the creation of life: there is the making of the idea -- an act which should not be underestimated. Whatever the idea is, it has still been created by the human being in an act of autonomy from his environment. The key again, is this distinction.

However, in alignment with this concrete aspect of the separateness and autonomy of human thought, is the notion of truth, an even more persuasive concept, which also helps to buttress the idea of "I think, therefore I am. As Descartes points out, the fact that a human being has emotions, feelings which can also manifest themselves as thought, which occur with utter truth and honesty -- this can also be used as support for the fact that human beings have an autonomous existence. Feelings emerge within the sense of the human being without being predicted and sometimes without any warning whatsoever. Yet, even in this enigmatic manner that they occur and exist, they're still completely true. There's very little that the human being can manipulate about his own emotions. "Nor is… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Descartes and the Life of the Mind.  (2013, April 22).  Retrieved February 18, 2020, from

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"Descartes and the Life of the Mind."  April 22, 2013.  Accessed February 18, 2020.